Which spiritual path is “the best”?

Maps will lead you in a variety of directions. And yet, no matter what direction you choose, as long as you are abiding in the speed of your heart, any direction will return you to the kingdom you’ve never left. And yet, any direction you choose not aligned in the speed of your heart, will seem to take you away from the kingdom that is always here, and seemingly remove out of your recognition an eternal truth that always remains. – Matt Kahn

. . . Writing in the Stream of Consciousness . . .

 The Power of Now was the first book that I looked at concerning New Age’ spirituality and information about the possibility of evolving consciousness, the nature of awareness, the trance of egoic consciousness, et cetera.

“Recently, revisiting The Power of Now prompted some reflections about the different kinds of spiritual teachings and the great commonalities, yet notable differences, they share.

“For I still believe, as when I first read Eckhart’s book, that all these spiritual teachings which are based in real experience (not manipulation of any kind), that they are all based in one Truth, one Truth about our Divine identity, the ever-presence of awareness, the power of love, and the possibility of transformation.

“Because what we find, when we look at all these teachings, is that they have the same basic fundamental elements. They propose a path via the message ‘It is possible to transform your life.’ They suggest that your identity is not limited to what you think of yourself. They suggest that the human mind tends to distort the Truth and create the experience of virtual reality, that the human ego, too, tends to have a dominating influence over one’s consciousness, and one’s life, which leads to the experience of limitation and unhappiness.

“And the practices which move us along the path, so to speak, always involve (1) awareness and (2) love. It is a path ‘from ego to heart;’ from ego-based consciousness to heart-based consciousness. In the ego-based consciousness, awareness is caught by the concepts of the mind and the ego’s agendas; there is an “unconsciousness” with respect to one’s life, and the many currents of fear leave little room to give and receive love.

“But in the shift to a disillusioned, empowered, authentic consciousness based in the heart, the mind is allow to be as it is; the ego is allowed to be as it is; life is allowed to be as it is. Loving awareness awakens and the world is embraced with understanding and compassion. Peace and joy are also found here as one’s life, in all its ordinariness, is realized to be the extraordinary play of the Divine.

“This, I believe, is a generally-applicable description of the trajectory of the path, the same path which all of these teachings are inviting us to walk, in different ways.

“And yet, at the same time, we are being invited to walk in different ways. The trajectory may be common but the ‘way to get there’ varies depending on who you talk to. Spiritual teachings often express

  • Different core ideas
  • Different practices
  • Different transmissions of energy

“Let’s go through a couple examples. (I am biased to talk about the particular teachings that I have some experience with.) Consider the Toltec path first. Some of the core ideas are:

  1. Agreements (the belief system); the use of one’s Word
  2. Three masteries of awareness, transformation, love
  3. Voice of knowledge /vs/ Integrity
  4. The dreaming mind, your personal dream, the dream of humanity

And so the practices have to do with taking on new agreements (The Four Agreements), questioning the voice of knowledge, dismantling the belief system, transforming your dream and coming to live in integrity and love.

“So we can see that the core elements I mentioned earlier are there. But now let’s consider another teaching for comparison. Let’s consider the core ideas in a Buddhist tradition, specifically the Mahamudra tradition articulated by Reggie Ray:

  1. The practice of Mahamudra meditation as the primary way of making the journey
  2. The importance of the soma, basically everything not the left-brain, in the meditative practice
  3. Grounding the practice in the Earth
  4. The opening of the heart as the practice deepens and awakens us

Now in this lineage, again, the elements of awareness and love are there in the meditative practice and the opening of the heart, and yet they are there in a different way. In the Toltec tradition meditation is emphasized so much less (at least from what I can tell from the books of Miguel Ruiz), or at least so much less in the formal way that it’s practiced in the Mahamudra tradition. Also, in the Mahamudra tradition, as presented by Reggie, there actually is talk of deconstructing the belief system, as in the Toltec tradition, specifically by comparing the beliefs we have come to acquire throughout our life with the truth revealed by our meditative experience. So again it’s the same but different; it’s the same process (deconstruction) but presented and pursued in a different way.

“Let’s take at least one more, which will be the teaching articulated by Adyashanti, whom I’ve been listening to for a few years now. Now Adya’s teaching can be, in a way, hard to pin down, because there’s a feeling, at least for me, that he’s not giving you a lot to grasp onto as an ego. His most recent book-form articulation of his teaching comes in The Way of Liberation (2014), which is quite different from Falling into Grace (2011). But what these have in common, and I would venture to say that what they have in common with his earlier teaching as well, like The End of Your World, is The Direct Path. This is the same kind of path pointed to by Nisargadatta (whom Adya did a study course on), Ramana Maharshi and Papaji.

“The Direct Path points you back to awareness or I AM. In The Way of Liberation, Adya summarizes the whole teaching by saying ‘Question everything.’ It’s all about inquiry. In a talk he once said, the ‘teachings of deconstructing the Dream State [the virtual reality created by the mind] are deeper than we know.’ In Falling into Grace, too, he calls ‘Time’–or the idea of time–the ‘greatest barrier to awakening.’ This is pretty radical. This doesn’t give you anything to hold onto at all! To me it seems to reflect the idea, which Adya has also said, that ‘Everyone is the One’  and ‘Everyone is enlightened.’ We could say The Direct Path is just about dropping all the baggage, letting go, and being right here, right now, completely. It’s not even a path; it’s falling into grace. . .

“So of course the element of awareness is there, as in the other teachings. The element of love or open-heartedness is also there, but perhaps in a more subdued way. Adya has said many-a-time that Love is inherent to Reality, and it’s as if he’s just pointing directly to the Reality so we can experience that Love ourselves. From that point of view, the teaching is based in love and open-heartedness but it’s what Adya might call ‘Fierce Love’—not giving an inch to unrealities!

“There are many more teachings. Matt Kahn’s teachings are certainly worth talking about, but I have mentioned him in other posts, and, anyway, three examples is enough… Just briefly, what is interesting about his teaching is that awareness is what’s downplayed and Love is given all the attention and focus. As Matt says, ‘Whatever Arises Love That.’

“It should be clear then, at this point, that all these teachings are providing different practices and core ideas with which to orient ourselves, and yet they have the same core elements of love and awareness, and the same trajectory out of ego-based consciousness to heart-based consciousness, when you look at them.

“And an initial question may be, ‘well, what do we do with this?’ ‘Well, which path do we follow?’ ‘Which of these paths is the best?’

“To me it’s important to recognize that this question ‘Which path is the best?’ is an abstract question which desires an answer that will be applicable across the board; that is, an answer that will apply for every person in the world. ‘Which path or teaching is the best?’ presupposes this idea that everyone is the same and if we all just walked the same path to get to the ‘destination’ in the most efficient way, then that would be the optimal state of affairs. Some presupposition like that.

“But of course reality isn’t like that at all. To begin with, people are hardwired differently. We resonate with different things just because of irreducible differences in our personality types and what kind of experiences we want to have as souls in this world. Secondly, people are at different stages in consciousness. What resonates at one stage, and is applicable at one point in time, may not resonate or be applicable at all at a later point in time. You can’t know the future.

“Here I am leaning on the idea of what resonates because I believe that we do, in fact, receive inner guidance and we have an intuition about what we need to attend to in our life or what we need to change or what we may need to reconsider—all of that and more. This self-awareness comes not so much from our mind, ego, and belief system jumping to or grasping for conclusions but from our heart and inner knowing that ‘magically’ arises when are open to receiving it.

“So the question becomes not ‘What is the best path across the board?’ or even ‘What is the best path for my life personally?’, but if we are honest then we can look and see that, actually, we only have this day, we only have this moment, and we do not know if we have tomorrow or even the next moment.

“All we have is right now.

“Then my invitation to you is to look deep inside, in your heart and in your inner knowing, the deep wisdom already existing, at this very moment, within you! This inner knowing already knows the way to go. It knows there is no rush to get there. It knows that All is Well.

“And it knows, too, that our anxiety about finding ‘the best’ spiritual path actually comes from a place of fear and distrust which does not belong to our True Self.

“Then rather than continue to work in the abstract, and basically waste our time with questions whose answers are so limited and so relative to circumstances, we can lay those down, and we can attend to what really needs attending to. We can meet this moment with all of our love and all of our wisdom when we stop filtering it and really get down to ‘fierce unblinking honest,’ as my friend once called it, and humbling surrender to the moment.

“That’s where the path of the one Truth is—that is what all these teachings are really pointing to.

“They are pointing to what is within you.”

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